Mumford & Sons – Sigh No More

Posted on September 23, 2009

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The name of Marcus Mumford and his band of “Sons” has been floating around the New English Folk scene for at least three years, what with forming part of Laura Marling’s backing band and sharing a house with Jay Jay Pistolet, but it’s taken a play of single Little Lion Man on Zane Lowe’s radio show as ‘Hottest Record in the World Today’ for them to start garnering the attention they deserve.

After releasing several e.ps on Chess Club they’ve graduated to the prestigious Island records, home of brit-pop legends Pulp (the actual winner of the war, but never mind all that for now) and troubled train-wreck-in-motion Amy Winehouse, for their first full length effort, Sigh No More. Combing the best of Laura Marling’s melodic sense and the righteous, angry folk playing of the Pogues with a vocal that ranges from soft moan to guttural roar, Mumford & Sons make sure that each song is varies in tone.

Opener Sigh No More starts worryingly low-key, all gentle guitar strums and barely audible chanting vocals, and for half its length is actually the weakest part of the entire album. Thankfully at precisely halfway through its running time it breaks into something remarkable, with Mumford letting loose with a howl about the nature of love. It’s a finely pitched piece of forceful music which after the sedate beginning takes you by surprise whilst paving the way for the finest parts of the rest of the album.

In terms of song writing Mumford & Sons manage to neatly sidestep the genre’s traps of high-romanticising and overly wordy verses. In the latter case they actually head off in the opposite direction, with the majority of tracks being rather heavy handed with chorus repetition. It’s easily forgiven though, as each time reiteration often accompanied by a joyous musical up-swelling and a confident group vocal. The perfect example of this is Winter Winds, possibly the best track on the album, whose chorus of “And my head told my heart to let love grow/ but my heart told my head this time no” grows and grows until it’s punctuated by a wistful saxophone solo reminiscent of The Pogues’ A Rainy Night In Soho.

However the album is at its best when its songs fall into one of two categories. Firstly are the sinister songs such as single, Little Lion Man, White Blank Page, or Thistles and Weeds which, thanks to the immense production, sounds almost apocalyptic. The second are the sweepingly majestic songs (of which there are many), including Sigh No More, I Gave You All and Awake My Soul, whose group vocals and lilting melodies grab hold of your attention and refuse to let go, ensuring multiple plays.

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